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TALLEY v. FELDMAN

September 30, 1996

ERIC J. TALLEY
v.
ERIC FELDMAN and THE UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HUTTON

 HUTTON, J.

 September 30, 1996

 Presently before the Court is the Motion of Defendant United Transportation Union to Dismiss Plaintiff's Action and the Motion of Defendant Eric Feldman to Dismiss Plaintiff's Action, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will dismiss the plaintiff's claims against the defendants.

 I. BACKGROUND

 The plaintiff, Eric J. Talley, a member in good standing of Local 61 of the United Transportation Union ("UTU"), alleges that there were improprieties with UTU's January 19, 1996 Section 401(d) elections. *fn1" Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that UTU failed to provide timely nomination and election notices during its 1995 nationwide quadrennial elections of officers for General Committee of Adjustment GO-769. *fn2" Furthermore, the plaintiff maintains that UTU did not permit him or other members to nominate candidates in those elections, become candidates themselves, or support and vote for candidates of their choice. These actions, the plaintiff asserts, violate the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 ("LMRDA"), the Railway Labor Act ("RLA"), and the United States Constitution.

 On May 5, 1996, following the elections, the plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the Department of Labor ("Department") and outlined his allegations of defendant UTU's misconduct. The Department conducted an investigation, and on September 5, 1995, the plaintiff received a letter from defendant Eric Feldman *fn3" stating the reasons why the Secretary of Labor ("Secretary") would not file suit under the LMRDA to set aside UTU's 1995 election.

 After receiving Mr. Feldman's letter, the plaintiff filed the instant suit against defendants UTU and Feldman *fn4" , alleging violations of his rights under the LMRDA, the RLA, and the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The plaintiff requests this Court to: (1) declare the action of the Department contrary to law, arbitrary, capricious and in defiance of LMRDA; (2) order the Department to institute suit to set aside UTU's Section 401(d) elections for its officers; and (3) award the plaintiff $ 700,000 in damages to be paid by the defendants. The defendants, on the other hand, argue that the plaintiff's claims lack merit, and have moved this Court to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Legal Standard

 1. Rule 12(b)(1) - Subject Matter Jurisdiction

 Upon reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, courts apply a different standard than when reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Thus, in Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884 (3d Cir. 1977), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit stated:

 Because at issue in a factual 12(b)(1) motion is the trial court's jurisdiction--its very power to hear the case--there is substantial authority that the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case. In short, no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims. Moreover, the plaintiff will have the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.

 Id. at 891.

 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a district court can grant a dismissal based on the legal insufficiency of a claim. Dismissal is proper only when the claim clearly appears to be either immaterial and solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction, or is wholly insubstantial and frivolous. Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1408-09 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 501 U.S. 1222, 115 L. Ed. 2d 1007, 111 S. Ct. 2839 (1991). When the subject matter jurisdiction of the court is challenged, the party that invokes the court's jurisdiction bears the burden of persuasion. Kehr Packages, 926 F.2d at 1409 (citing Mortensen, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.1977)). Moreover, the district court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any evidence to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction. McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1052, 103 L. Ed. 2d 581, 109 S. Ct. 1312 (1989).

 2. Rule 12(b)(6) - Claims Upon Which Relief May Be Granted

 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a plaintiff's complaint set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Accordingly, the plaintiff does not have to "set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957) (emphasis added). In other words, the plaintiff need only to "give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Id. (emphasis added).

 In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim, this Court must "accept as true the facts alleged in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them. Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . is limited to those instances where it is certain that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved." Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988)); see H.J. Inc. v. Northwest Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229, 249-50, 106 L. Ed. 2d 195, 109 S. Ct. 2893 (1989). The court will only dismiss the complaint if "'it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.'" H.J. Inc., 492 U.S. at 249-50 (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984)).

 B. Analysis of Plaintiff's Claims

 1. Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act

 a. Claims Against Defendant UTU

 The plaintiff alleges that defendant UTU's 1995 election violated provisions of LMRDA. He believes that "Article 82 [of UTU's constitution] unlawfully discriminates against rank and file members in their rights to vote, nominate, speak and assemble at Article 82 election meetings." *fn5" (Pl.'s Resp. to UTU Mot. at 7) (original emphasis). Accordingly, he brings suit against the defendant UTU under Title I, which provides him a private cause of action. Defendant UTU argues that the plaintiff's suit is brought not under Title I, but under Title IV, and the court must dismiss the claim, because it lacks subject matter jurisdiction.

 LMRDA "was Congress' first major attempt to regulate the internal affairs of labor unions." Local No. 82, Furniture & Piano Moving, Furniture Store Drivers, Helpers, Warehousemen & Packers v. Crowley, 467 U.S. 526, 528, 81 L. Ed. 2d 457, 104 S. Ct. 2557 (1984). Title I of LMRDA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 411-415, provides a statutory "Bill of Rights" for the "rank and file" union members. Id. Title I was "designed to guarantee every union member equal rights to vote and otherwise participate in union decisions, freedom from unreasonable restrictions on speech and assembly, and protection from improper discipline." Id. at 536-37. To protect these rights, Title I allows an individual union member to initiate a civil action during a union election. 29 U.S.C. § 412 (1985).

 Title IV, 29 U.S.C. §§ 481-483, on the other hand, "provides an elaborate post[-]election procedure aimed solely at protecting union democracy through free and democratic elections, with primary responsibility for enforcement lodged with the Secretary of Labor." Crowley, 467 U.S. at 536. Title IV requires that a plaintiff alleging a violation, exhaust the remedies available under his union's constitution and bylaws. 29 U.S.C. § 482(a)(1) (1985). After exhausting these internal remedies, the plaintiff may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, who will investigate the plaintiff's allegations. 29 U.S.C. § 482(b) (1985); see McDonough v. Local 825, Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, 470 F.2d 261, 264 (3d Cir. 1972) ("The purpose of this intricate procedure is to permit a 'maximum amount of independence and self-government by giving every international union the opportunity to correct improper local elections.'") (quoting S. Rep. No. 187, 86th Cong., 1st Sess. 21 (1959)). If the Secretary,

 
finds probable cause to believe that a violation . . . has occurred and has not been remedied, he shall . . . bring a civil action against the labor organization as an entity in the district court of the United States . . . to set aside the invalid election, if any, and to direct the conduct of an election or hearing and vote upon the removal of officers . . . .

 Id. If, however, the Secretary decides not to bring civil action, a union member may not initiate a private suit against the union. Crowley, 467 U.S. at 549 (citing Trbovich v. United Mine Workers of Am., 404 U.S. 528, 531, 30 L. Ed. 2d 686, 92 S. Ct. 630 (1972)); McDonough, 470 F.2d at 264 (citing 29 U.S.C. § 483). The remedy provided by Title IV for challenging an election already conducted is exclusive, and thus preempts any Title I claims. 29 U.S.C. § 483 (1985); Crowley, 467 U.S. at 549; McDonough, 470 F.2d at 264. Therefore, when a district court determines that a plaintiff's Title I suit is really a Title IV suit, the court must dismiss the private civil action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. McDonough, 470 F.2d at 265; Thompson v. United ...


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